Purpose: Graft tensioning during medial patellofemoral ligament (MPFL) reconstruction typically allows for lateral patellar translation within the trochlear groove. Computational simulation was performed to relate the allowed patellar translation to patellofemoral kinematics and contact pressures.
Methods: Multibody dynamic simulation models were developed to represent nine knees with patellar instability. Dual limb squatting was simulated representing the pre-operative condition and simulated MPFL reconstruction. The graft was tensioned to allow 10, 5, and 0 mm of patellar lateral translation at 30° of knee flexion. The patellofemoral contact pressure distribution was quantified using discrete element analysis.
Results: For the 5 and 10 mm conditions, patellar lateral shift decreased significantly at 0° and 20°. The 0 mm condition significantly decreased lateral shift for nearly all flexion angles. All graft conditions significantly decreased lateral tilt at 0°, with additional significant decreases for the 5 and 0 mm conditions. The 0 mm condition significantly increased the maximum medial pressure at multiple flexion angles, increasing by 57% at 30°, but did not alter the maximum lateral pressure.
Conclusions: Allowing 5 to 10 mm of patellar lateral translation limits lateral maltracking, thereby decreasing the risk of post-operative recurrent instability. Allowing no patellar translation during graft tensioning reduces maltracking further, but can overconstrain the patella, increasing the pressure applied to medial patellar cartilage already fibrillated or eroded from an instability episode.
Keywords: Contact pressure; Medial patellofemoral ligament reconstruction; Patellar instability; Patellar kinematics.